I’m sorry Argentina. I taught you incorrectly. When I served my mission in Rosario, Argentina 94-96 I misled the people I taught. I feel terrible because I fell in love with the people there. I was treated with kindness and respect. They welcomed me into their homes, we ate together, sung together, prayed together and cried together. I am forever changed because of the love they showed me.
When I was a young missionary I wanted to improve the discussions or “charlas” as we called them. We were provided a flip chart that had illustrations so that the investigator could better understand. I’m sure it was hard enough to understand with our American accents. In the flip chart, there weren’t many images to relate to during the teachings. Especially in the first charla. So I took the liberty to add more. My resource was old Liahona and Ensign magazines that every missionary apartment had. I began my search with scissors and a glue stick in hand. I found some great ones and the investigators, I felt were getting a better idea of what was being taught.
So instead of just this image:
I also included this:
See how much better the story is told with these images? You get Joseph studying… and then God the Father and Jesus appeared while I recited “Vi una columna de luz, mas brillante que el sol…”.
There were no images that explained the Book of Mormon in the flip charts so I went to the Church’s publications to find a picture of how the translation happened. This is where I totally went wrong. I searched for images of the Urim and Thummim, but I couldn’t find any. I remembered one from my youth, but I couldn’t find it any of the hundreds of magazines that were stacked in my apartment. I did, however, find a ton of Joseph with him studying/reading the plates with either him writing or a scribe writing.
I settled for these images:
During the lesson, I would explain how Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim. I also included pictures of Lehi and family on the boat, Mormon editing the scrolls/plates and Jesus appearing to the Nephites. My flip charts gave my investigators a better, more complete picture of the Book of Mormon story.
But little did I know of my errors. Even teaching the Urim and Thummim was incorrect. Sure he used those for the first 116 pages that were later lost and never published, but what the Book of Mormon is today was dictated while Joseph put his head in a hat and looked at a stone. While he used this technique the plates were sometimes not even in the same room or house. Why were the plates then needed? I mean look at Nephi who killed for a set of plates for crying out loud!
I wasn’t trying to deceive or to take advantage of people, I was just teaching what I was taught. I went to all four years of seminary and had really good attendance. I even won the scripture chase battles. I also took a year of the Book of Mormon at Ricks College before I left to Argentina. I can not remember any time where Joseph looking into a hat at a brown stone was taught, ever. Why would I dig any deeper when I trusted the narrative that was found everywhere I looked when I studied? Maybe I could have studied more. Maybe if I dropped by temple square and see what was at the visitors center, I could find a more accurate portrayal.
So maybe the people I taught will now see the image of the seer stone that the Church released this week and maybe they will be upset with me for teaching them incorrectly. I was a part of this cover-up of sorts. And for that I truly apologize. I deeply love you and care for you, and I am so, so sorry I misled you. If I would have known, I would have taught you correctly. Please accept my most sincere apology.
I’m still waiting for that image from the church with Joseph looking into a hat, only then will my flip chart be complete.
I'm sorry, Paraguay.
I also feel I taught incorrect information on my mission. I have no way to tell those I taught I was wrong, unless by some slight chance any of them are reading this. Let me just say I am convinced LDS prophets make mistakes- big ones.
Very similar feelings on my part. Thanks.
As a former missionary who left the church not long after returning home, these kinds of “mistakes” helped me see things clearly. Namely, that the people running the church were just that, people – who acted on their own (probably with the best of intentions) but were not receiving divine guidance. Eventually, that led me to doubt God’s existence entirely. I left the church and never looked back.
Sign me up for feeling grateful I was a girl during the l980’s and was pressured to get married instead of going on a mission.
I only deceived my children, not any converts to the church.
There was such a painting at the Springville Art Museum's religious show this past winter. Joseph Smith with his head over a hat. Best of show IMO.
I’m sorry Moscow.
Thanks Paul, good post!
I’m sorry, Greece.
I’m sorry Florida…
I’m sorry Fiji. And particularly to those who joined the church because of my efforts, I am sorry. I taught you what I was told in the MTC, seminary and at church, I didn’t realize it was fiction.
Considering the number of people I actually talked with about how the Book of Mormon was translated (perhaps zero), I’m not sorry, Italy. But I am sorry for how many people feel betrayed learning this. Hopefully we are learning as a people.
I didn’t know you went to Italy… about 4 years ago I tried my hand at Italian… it didn’t go very good.
Get a grip. Moral preening is very unbecoming.
At its core, what you taught has not changed – Joseph Smith translated The Book of Mormon by the power of God. That was the message. The mechanics of translation never were and likely never will be part of a basic discussion. This adds just one more glimpse to the glimpses you’ve had before.
The only new thing actually revealed this week was that the stone was still around. I’m a bit disappointed that it’s so mundane looking but that’s probably from watching too many Indiana Jones movies.
Yes, it’d be so much more convenient if Joseph had been an urbane upper-class intellectual instead of a backwoods rube. In fact, if God had only waited 100 years the whole process could have been filmed and made available today on Youtube.
At it’s core, Joseph Smith never translated the Book of Mormon from writings on gold plates. The Book of Mormon was revealed to him and he dictated it to a scribe. This was never the message.
And your whole ‘get a grip, moral preening’ dig is just another way of blaming members who are upset that what they were taught was incorrect; as if a member should be blamed for actually believing all of their Sunday School, seminary and institute teachers.
You’re right. I should have known better. I should have been more intelligent. I should have been clued into the fact that translation doesn’t necessarily mean translation. Revelation doesn’t mean revelation. First visions don’t mean vision. You know. I, nor my family, nor most of my companions, nor many friends and colleges, we all don’t deserve to be members of this church.
Im sorry Australua
Ensign, October 2015
(Note the date. Now Mormons are even messing with the space-time continuum.)
Joseph Smith’s magic spectacles
Such a cool article. Great job.
Aced it, Dude!!!!!
I feel very comparably about most everything I taught on my mission; this post resonates with me in a lot of ways. Had I known the reality, I would have taught the reality. It wasn't our fault that we were only given the most sellable version of the story to share.
I feel very comparably about most everything I taught on my mission; this post resonates with me in a lot of ways. Had I known the reality, I would have taught the reality. It wasn't our fault that we were only given the most believable/palatable version of the story to share.
Thanks for your comment.
A lot of others should grow a spine…thanks for the read.
Actually, the Urim and Thummim never existed. that was a part of revisionist history that began in 1833. By 1835 D&C 10 had been updated to talk about it and the first vision story had been updated to mention it when Moroni visited. After someone in a newspaper speculated about it, suddenly revelation was updated and history changed to make the story sound less magical and more biblical. See here for more info: https://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon/comments/3fw1yc/the_urim_and_thummim_was_never_used_to_translate
I'm sorry Taiwan
Sorry I called your facts anti we have the essays now…would be a good follow up story. There better than nothing if you ask me.
So here’s an opposing viewpoint:
This has got to be one of biggest non-issues I have ever seen, and I’ve seen plenty of them. So we were all OK with the Urim and Thummim. Clear stones, a holder and breastplate. Look into them, see things. Buried with the plates. “Magic spectacles.” But if a seer stone was also involved everything collapses into a pile of meaninglessness. Oh, how misled investigators were! Why would the Holy Ghost even think of testifying to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon if a seer stone is involved in the translation? The Book of Mormon is said to be a translation taken from ancient plates, but now with a seer stone it becomes – what? Something different? Urim and Thummim – we’re fine with that – but this! This! We’re lucky anybody is a member!
This post once again shows, as if any more evidence were needed, that the Church can do nothing, nothing, right. No matter what it does or says, someone is there to kick it in the shins.
The Book of Mormon Translation essay added to Gospel Topics on lds.org is a perfectly concise, intelligible, lucid statement on the subject.
I wonder who was the person or committee that decided the Urim and Thummim is going to be less weird than a stone in a hat? Both are weird. With the urim and thummim though we get a picture that the plates were some how involved. He was reading the plates through lenses. The church did illustrate that really well in a children’s book. The stone in the bottom of a hat raises a lot of questions about the need for plates, since they were covered up, not in the same room or house in some instances.
Besides that and the main point of the essay is this:
The church pushed a story that was not the right story. I told the wrong story to thousands of people in Argentina. I needed to apologize.
This is my story, my experience. For you maybe it was a non-issue. But don’t call my experience a non-issue.
You really don’t see an issue with a church claiming to be the one and only true church, that emphasizes truth every chance it gets, sending how many thousands of missionaries out to convert people with lies?
The problem isn’t necessarily the weirdness of the story, but the lie endorsed by the church that many of us were taught growing up and then sent out to teach ourselves.
And seriously, why have Nephi kill Laban if the plates aren’t even going to be needed, because all that will really be needed is a seer stone when it’s said and done? (the issue Paul mentions above about the need for the plates)
I find it hard to believe that so many people didn't know anything about the seer stone and the hat. I knew about it in the early to mid 90s. I guess I was just lucky to have a good seminary teacher.
Please search lds.org and try to find an article that mentions Joseph looking into a hat. It needs to mention the hat and it can not include the new essays. Now compare those results with the mentions of Urim and Thummim. Please post your results. Please don’t find it so hard to believe when this is the narrative that has been given.
Consider yourself lucky.
I’m sorry England.
As a former Temple Square missionary, I can assure you that a picture of Joseph Smith with his face in a hat is nowhere on the square.
Becky Stradling Wolford,
Did your seminary teacher also tell you about how nobody used to have the internet?
I don't think I owe anyone an apology because I don't recall ever getting into whether a seer stone, a urrim and thummin, or rosetta stone were used in the "translation." It is fun, mysterious, and intersting that a phsical device was used in "translation" and to speculate on why any device would be necessary at all. However, I think this is a pretty small and insignificant part of the narrative and if we decide that we have to apologize for every small and insignificant part of every religious narrative that we got wrong, we'll be apologizing for the rest of our lives.
If I am going to spend some time apologizing for problems with the Book of Mormon, I think my time is better spent on racisim, anachronisms, middle eastern DNA, lost manuscripts, and excessively literal readings of the book that exacerbate the afore mentioned problems.
Mike – compared to what is in the actual book, yes these issues seem smaller – I have a post coming up on the content. But I would argue on this subject that it goes to a bigger issue of what the institution itself is saying about it’s own narrative. This post is a small example of what is coming up in many people’s lives of those that “stuck to the manuals”.
Barker, that’s embarassing. One of many mentioning the hat, from an apostle no less:
One talk given to mission presidents, printed a year before I left on my mission. How many now mention the Urim and Thummim to offset the hat? It is probably 100 to 1. For every obscure 1 time the seer stone in a hat is mentioned there are 100 other resources explains the urim and thummim – when I was the taught – I trusted my teachers, I trusted the manuals, I trusted my leaders. Why would I say to myself, this urim and thummim story that I have been told by my trusted leaders whom I love just doesn’t sound right – I’m going to go digging through every ensign and friends article since the day I was born… Everyone trusted the resources provided, why go looking if that is what the resources said everywhere we looked? The victim blaming has to stop.
This is what I was taught throughout throughout my childhood and teen years
Thank you for writing this. I’ve been a member most of my life and although yes, I heard of seer stones, this stone in the hat story is new to me. Maybe it’s been there in the shadows but it has been overshadowed by the story of the Urim and Thummim. I feel that denying this is dishonest.
Some of the responses to your post remind me of some disturbing ways that people can be spiritually abusive. One is in shaming and shunning and one is being condescending. Instead of compassionate responses to pain, you might hear something like this, “Oh this is nothing new, I’ve always known.” Or “where have you been? That information has always been around.” It’s like calling others idiots for not knowing, and feels a bit condescending and shaming to me.
I found a new quote I like today. “Quit trying to explain yourself to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.”
Thanks again for the great article.
Thank you for your kind words
And yet, they still don’t dare publish the image of the hat. Too graphic
Good thing I was a shitty missionary haha! No seriously though, this really resonates with me. Thanks. And sorry, Portugal.