Subject: Some information on the URIM and THUMMIM
Date: Jul 13, 2008
Author: SpongeBob SquareGarments

What exactly is the Urim & Thummim?

Some accounts refer the seer stones as a pair of stones set in eye frames to resemble spectacles. Other accounts refer to a single seer stone by itself. Apparently the spectacle version was with the plates in the stone box. They were only used for translating just the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon and were then taken from Joseph by the angel along with the plates. The angel returned the plates but not the spectacle ‘Urim and Thummim’. After this, Joseph used the single seer stone that he had in his possession from before the Book of Mormon plates were retrieved.

The term "Urim and Thummim" is mentioned seven times in the Old Testament (Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65; Deuteronomy 33:8; Numbers 27:21; 1 Samuel 28:6 — in the latter two passages "Urim" is used alone.). The Urim and Thummim described in the Old Testament appears to more of a ‘Yes/No’ tool like a pair of dice rather than an actual translation device. We know of no historian or Biblical scholar who claims that the Biblical Urim and Thummim had anything to do with "translating languages", or that they resembled "giant spectacles" as BOM witnesses claimed. But the term ‘Urim and Thummim’ did give the seer stone an aire of Biblical authority to it so the church started using that term after 1833 and backdated earlier references of seer stone with urim and thummim.

Term ‘Urim and Thummim’ not used until 1833

It is notable that the term "Urim and Thummim" is not found in the Book of Mormon and was never used by Joseph Smith with reference to producing the Book of Mormon until after 1833. In that year, a close associate of Smith, W.W. Phelps, speculated that the ancient Nephite interpreters mentioned in the Book of Mormon and by Joseph Smith might be the Urim and Thummim of the Old Testament. Phelps wrote in the LDS publication The Evening and Morning Star (Jan. 1833) that the Book of Mormon had been translated, "through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles — (known perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim). Phelps words, "known perhaps in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummin" show that it was merely speculation on his part that associated Joseph’s magic seer stone with the biblical Urim and Thummim.

Phelps' speculation gained quick popularity to the point where LDS writers used the term Urim and Thummim to refer to both the mystical interpreters Joseph Smith said were with the gold plates, and to the seer stone Joseph placed in his hat while dictating the Book of Mormon. As a result, many LDS writings used the term Urim and Thummim synonymously for seer stone. An example of this confusion of the terms is provided by the tenth President of the LDS church, Joseph Fielding Smith:

The statement has been made that the Urim and Thummim was on the altar in the Manti Temple when that building was dedicated. The Urim and Thummim so spoken of, however, was the seer stone which was in the possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith in early days. This seer stone is now in the possession of the Church.

According to David Whitmer, the entire Book of Mormon text we have today came through Joseph's seer stone and not through the Nephite interpreters. In an 1885 interview, Zenas H. Gurley, then the editor of the RLDS Saints’ Herald, asked Whitmer if Joseph had used his "Peep stone" to do the translation. Whitmer replied:

... he used a stone called a "Seers stone," the "Interpreters" having been taken away from him because of transgression. The "Interpreters" were taken from Joseph after he allowed Martin Harris to carry away the 116 pages of Ms [manuscript] of the Book of Mormon as a punishment, but he was allowed to go on and translate by use of a "Seers stone" which he had, and which he placed in a hat into which he buried his face, stating to me and others that the original character appeared upon parchment and under it the translation in English.

These comments from David Whitmer regarding the loss of the "Interpreters" and Joseph’s subsequent use of his stone, help clarify some confusion regarding what exactly Joseph used to produce the Book of Mormon. When Joseph first announced the discovery of gold plates with strange engravings, he also claimed there were special spectacles called "Interpreters" that were with the plates. Joseph said these were to help in the translation process.

However, after Martin Harris lost the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon translation that Joseph loaned to him, Joseph claimed that the angel took back both the plates and the Interpreters as punishment to Joseph. He would later get back the gold plates, but was told he would not receive the Interpreters, but instead was allowed to use his seer stone to produce all of the Book of Mormon we have today. As time went on, Joseph Smith and others would refer to the seer stone both as "Interpreters" and as the "Urim and Thummim."

Even LDS apologist Stephen Ricks acknowledges that the term "Urim and Thummim" was not used by any Mormon until about 1833:

"the term Urim and Thummim (first used by W. W. Phelps in 1833, which is generally associated with the Nephite interpreters, is frequently used in a rather undifferentiated manner to indicate either the seer stone or the interpreters." B.H. Roberts

Although Mormon historian B. H. Roberts claimed that Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim, he frankly admitted that he sometimes used a "Seer Stone" to translate the plates: "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,... It possessed the qualities of Urim and Thummim, since by means of it — as described above — as well by means of the Interpreters found with the Nephite record, Joseph was able to translate the characters engraven on the plates." (Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 1, page 129)

B.H. Roberts explains the difference between the seer stone and the translating device found in the stone box:

“The sum of the whole matter, then, concerning the manner of translating the sacred record of the Nephites, according to the testimony of the only witnesses competent to testify in the matter is: With the Nephite record was deposited a curious instrument, consisting of two transparent stones, set in the rim of a bow, somewhat resembling spectacles, but larger, called by the ancient Hebrews ‘Urim and Thummim,’ but by the Nephites ‘Interpreters.’ In addition to these ‘Interpreters’ the Prophet Joseph had a ‘Seer Stone,’ possessed of similar qualities to the Urim and Thummim; that the prophet sometimes used one and sometimes the other of these sacred instruments in the work of translation; that whether the ‘Interpreters’ or the ‘Seer Stone’ was used the Nephite characters with the English interpretation appeared in the sacred instrument; that the Prophet would pronounce the English translation to his scribe, which when correctly written would disappear and the other characters with their interpretation take their place, and so on until the work was completed” (B.H. Roberts, The Seventy’s Course in Theology, First Year, p.111).

Urim & Thummim in the Doctrine and Covenants

It should be noted that the mention of the Urim and Thummim in Doctrine and Covenants 10:1, dated "summer of 1828," was written back into this revelation at a later date. In its original form as Chapter IX of the 1833 Book of Commandments, the revelation makes no mention of the Urim and Thummim 17 (view scanned image of 1833 Book of Commandments, Chapter IX). The mention of Urim and Thummim in what is now designated D&C 10:1 first appears in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Commandments, where it is found as Section XXXVIII.

Critic’s comment: Apparently the Church took that action to cover up the ‘peep-stone’ accounts, and replace it with something that sounded Biblical, rather than occultic.

Why would the angel take away the Urim & Thummim and make Joseph use a stone he found during his treasure-seeking days to finish the Book of Mormon translation?

Joseph Smith claimed that when he was a teenager, in 1823, that an American Indian by the name of Moroni, who had died over 1000 years ago, visited him in his bedroom at night. The Indian told Joseph that there was a cache of items buried together in a hill near Joseph's house. The items included a book made of gold, a breastplate, and two seer stones. From Joseph's own description:

He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fullness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants. Also, that there were two stones in silver bows (and these stones, fastened to a breast-plate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim) deposited with the plates, and the possession: and use of these stones was what constituted Seers in ancient or modern times, and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book."
(History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, 2:34-35)

As mentioned in the section above by David Whitmer, after the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon were translated and then lost by Martin Harris, the Angel punished Joseph by taking away the golden plates and the Urim & Thummim. After Joseph repented for allowing the plates to be lost, the angel returned the golden plates to him but he did not return the Urim & Thummim. Instead Joseph had to resort to using a common stone that he had found while digging a well in the company of his brother Hyrum, for Willard and Mason Chase.

Joseph was digging a well for Mr. Chase. Martin Harris stated that the stone was 24 feet underground. (Martin Harris statement in Tiffany’s Monthly, 1859, pages 163-170.)

Dan Vogel quotes sources that indicate that in the fall of 1825, Joseph Smith sent Hyrum Smith to Willard Chase to borrow the stone from Willard. Willard Chase said that Hyrum came to him claiming that Joseph needed the stone to “accomplish some business of importance, which could not very well be done without the aid of the stone.” Chase was hesitant but Hyrum persisted and promised to return the stone. But Chase would never see the stone again. (Willard Chase, ca. 11 De4c. 1833, in E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 241 (Also found in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 2:66)

Does it make any sense at all that the angel would actually punish Joseph by taking away the very means by which he needed to translate the plates with? The ‘Nephite Interpreters’ were kept with the plates for thousands of years for the sole purpose of allowing the sacred golden plates to be translated to a modern-day language. Why preserve the Urim & Thummim and only allow it to be used for translating the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon? Why punish Joseph after he repented – wasn’t he forgiven, he did after all get the plates back, which are certainly more important than the Urim and Thummim? And why punish him in this manner by forcing him to resort to using a common stone he found in a well? Also, why does the church continually perpetuate the belief that the Urim & Thummim, contained in the stone box along with the gold plates, were used in translating the Book of Mormon when it was only used for the first 116 pages which were lost anyway?

The 2008 Sunday School manual on Joseph Smith (Chapter 5 on repentance – first page) states that:

For a time, the Lord took the Urim and Thummim and the plates from Joseph. But these things were soon restored to him. “The angel was rejoiced when he gave me back the Urim and Thummim,” the Prophet recalled, “and said that God was pleased with my faithfulness and humility, and loved me for my penitence and diligence in prayer, in the which I had performed my duty so well as to … be able to enter upon the work of translation again.” Reference given for this is:

Quoted by Lucy Mack Smith, “The History of Lucy Smith, Mother of the Prophet,” 1844–45 manuscript, book 7, p. 11, Church Archives.

However, David Whitmer and Emma Smith said that the original Urim and Thummim was taken back by the angel after the 116 pages were lost and not returned. This seems more likely because if Joseph did have the original Urim and Thummim, why would he use a common stone he found while digging a well to translate the rest of the BOM with? The fact that he used a single stone for translating the BOM is not in dispute as is mentioned many times by faithful LDS historians such as B.H. Roberts and even apostle Russell M. Nelson. Also the Church has this stone in its possession today but not the original spectacle-version of the Urim and Thummim, that was reportedly in the stone box.

Many critics contend that there never was a spectacle-version of the Urim and Thummim. There doesn’t appear to be any firm validation that anyone actually saw it other than Joseph, although Lucy Smith (Joseph’s mother) claimed to have felt the breastplate under a cloth. Some critic’s speculate that perhaps the spectacle version and breastplate would not pass a detailed inspection so Joseph substituted one of his common seer stones when the angel purportedly took back the plates and Urim and Thummim after losing the lost 116 pages. Or perhaps he started using the stone sometime during translation of the first 116 pages to Martin Harris. If they used a curtain, as sometimes reported, Martin wouldn’t know exactly what Joseph used and may explain why Martin said “that the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim”.

info from


Subject: A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." by B.H. Roberts
Date: Jul 13 20:18
Author: SusieQ#1

VOL 1 "How the Book of Mormon was Obtained

Pg 93 - "The Breastplate of Urim and Thummim

"It has been several times remarked that with the plates on which a brief history of the ancient American peoples was engrave, there was an ancient breast-plate to which, when the Prophet took possession of it, the Urim and Thummim were attached.

This breast-plate it appears the Prophet did not bring home with him when he brought the record. But a few days later, according to a statement by Lucy Smith, he came into the house from the field one afternoon and after remaining a a short time put on his "great coat" and left the house.

On his returning the mother was engaged in an upper room of the house preparing oilcloth for painting - it will be remembered that this was an art she has followed for some years. Joseph called to her and asked her to come down stairs.

To this she answered she could not then leave her work, but Joseph insisted and she came downstairs and entered the room where he was whereupon he placed in her hands the Nephite breast plate herein alluded to.

'It was wrapped in a a thin muslin handkerchief,' she explains, 'so thin that I could feel it's proportions without any difficulty'.

It was concave on one side, convex on the other and extended from the neck downwards as far as the center of the stomach of a man of extraordinary size. It had four straps of the same material, for the purpose of fastening it to the breast, two of which ran back to go over the shoulders and the other two were designed to fasten to the hips.

They were just the width of two of my fingers (for I measured them). and they had holes in the end of them, to be convenient in fastening. After I had examined it, Joseph placed it in the chest with the Urim and Thummin."
[paragraphs added for ease in reading]"


Subject: some speculation
Date: Jul 13 21:33
Author: CraigC

If there ever was a "Urim and Thummim", it was a prop for the con of Martin Harris.

So why would the "angel" have taken the "Urim and Thummim" away from Smith after the 116 pages incident?

Perhaps because its operation destroyed the original BOM manuscript after Smith read it to Harris. Perhaps it was a 19th century paper shredder.

If so, then Harris' loss of the 116 pages would have left Smith without the ability to replicate the original.

And to avoid that from happening again, the remainder of the translation required use of a different prop - a seer stone in a hat.


Subject: Legend of Enoch, freemasonry
Date: Jul 14 01:06
Author: Heresy

The Urim and Thummim was part of the Legend of Enoch along with the Hill Moriah, gold records and a compass/liahona.


If Spalding's and Smith's recountings have a common antecedent, it seems to be the Masonic "Legend of Enoch." In this saga, Enoch, the seventh patriarch, the son of Jared, and the great-grandfather of Noah, according to Masonic tradition, became disgusted with wickedness surrounding him. Fleeing to the "solitude and secrecy of Mount Moriah" he became engaged in prayer and contemplation. Here the Shekinah (sacred presence) appeared to him with instructions to preserve the wisdom of the antediluvians to their posterity. He then made a gold plate and engraved in characters the true, ineffable name of Deity. The plate was then placed in a specially prepared subterranean vault, along with other treasure, and covered with a stone door. Enoch was then only allowed to visit the site once a year. After his death all knowledge of this sacred treasure was lost.

Years later when King Solomon and his masons were excavating in Jerusalem to build the great temple they discovered the treasure trove. Hiram Abif (also Abiff), a widow's son, was killed defending the spot. Solomon's temple received these treasures, including the gold plate and the Urim and Thummin. See Albert G. Mackey, An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences: Comprising the Whole Range of Arts, Sciences and Literature as Connected With the Institution (Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1887), 255-56; Mervin B. Hogan, ed., An Underground Presidential Address [of Reed C. Durham, Jr.] (Salt Lake City: Research Lodge of Utah, F. & A.M., 16 Sept. 1974), privately circulated; Don McDermott, "Joseph Smith and the Treasure of Hiram Abiff," The Cryptic Scholar (Winter/Spring 1991); Jack Adamson, "The Treasurer of the Widow's Son," ca. 1970, privately circulated.


Subject: Re: Legend of Enoch, freemasonry
Date: Jul 15 08:46
Author: Killamanjaro

There are, of course, those references in the Old Testament, to "Urim and Thumim". I don't think it is necessary to have three "m"s, in Thumim. They are, after all, old Hebrew words.
And, there is no "th" sound, in Hebrew, either. It is simply a "t" sound, in that language.
(Psst! It is not rendered "tum", in any such form, either)

Check them out. Their meanings are very interesting, in the ancient Hebrew.

King David, of Old, was not only a King but a "Seer" because he as skilled in the use of "Urim". That is from the writings of the prophet Samuel, as referenced, earlier.

One who was skilled in the use of Urim was, then, a Seer.
The "yes" or "no" answer that was mentioned by someone else, here, seems more compatible with Ouija boards, than with the capability associated with such a "Stone".

Oddly, I do see where the mormon church did not want the people to come away with the occultic idea of a stone used for "peeping". This would make it fall into the category of "crystal-ball gazing".

BUT, didn't Nostradamus "gaze into" a large cauldron of liquid?

And, of course, the old Astrologer women, with their crystal balls...that is the impression the mormon church wanted to avoid.

The "head-in-the-hat" trick seems outlandish, so the church leaders and officials, for a long time, hid that idea from the people, as well.

Perception is everything: even if it is a lie.


Subject: another nail in the MORG coffin. n/t


Subject: The question becomes: how much of Mormonism's from it's beginnings on is not Free Masonry!
Date: Jul 14 13:23
Author: SusieQ#1

Joseph Smith Jr did a bang up job combining Masonry, diving rods (all references taken out of the D&C - including the one to Oliver Cowdrey), stones, Christianity, (including the tradition of dreams/visions) old Indian traditions, etc.

He also must have been a very good craftsman to make all of his tools of the trade, so to speak.

The best part is that was so convincing he got people to believe him and generations later, millions still do!

My view is that early Mormonism is totally ignored, it's now a church run by "Modern Day Revelation" with emphasis on the major doctrines, and lots of rules to micromanage the members including the regulation skivvies.

Take away the undies, the BOA, the temple, and what do you have?

RLDS or Community of Christ. :-) Still going strong, in CA also.
What a surprise. I had no idea. The local leader just passed away recently.

Their beliefs are similar to Mormonism but they don't call themselves Mormons.


Subject: how much of Mormonism is not Free Masonry!-The rest is Caballism
Date: Jul 15 21:01
Author: confused

After 1834 when Alexander Niebauer came to Nauvoo, he began to work with Joseph and the theology began to change rather quickly to multiple Gods and other familiar territory. Actually, Masonry has a lot of Caballistic roots according to Quinn.


Subject: Your point on RLDS is valid plus
Date: Jul 15 21:08
Author: confused

They actually don't seem to care very much what you believe. There is a very loose interpretation of a lot of doctrine. We have been going to a local congregation and find it refreshing. There is also very little or no Joseph worshipping, no obedience lectures and a lot more Christ centered.


Subject: Excellent review - a little more
Date: Jul 15 09:45
Author: Jim Huston

The Urim and Thummim was based on the Assyro-Babylonian account of the creation which was described as the “Tablets of Destiny.” These tablets rested on the breast of the High Priest (Man-God) and would give the possessor the power of a seer. It enabled the possessor to answer yes and no questions in much the same way as a rodsman of Joseph Smith’s time would do.

The Urim and Thummim stopped working after the destruction of the first temple of Solomon. Rabbinic scholars Maimonides (Laws of the Beis HaBechirah 4:1 (The same is true according to Tosafos to Yoma 21b)) and Ra'avad, Rabbi Avraham ben David (1125-1198) (Hasagos HaRaacad to Laws of Bais HaBechira 4:1), wrote that the Urim and Thummim was present in the breastplate of the High Priest after the construction of the second temple, but had stopped working due to the spiritual level of the people. The spirit of God no longer resided in the stone. The Urim and Thummim was one of the five components written in the Talmud as being required for the High Priest to officiate. There was one, which was part of the High Priest's clothing while officiating Ether reports this being given to the brother of Jared long before it left Jerusalem. To understand my use of a singular for Urim and Thummim see the etymology at the end of this post.

To further complicate matters, recent archaeological finds and dating (Neil Asher Silberman, Israel Finkelstein; The Bible Unearthed, David and Solomon) have brought into question the entire dating of the Bible. Their findings show that the Bible dates present a picture much older than really existed. Much of the building and progress attributed to Solomon were actually done during a period of Egyptian occupation around 500 BCE. Until that time, Jerusalem was an insignificant trade center for local sheep herders. It is their opinion that the Bible was constructed in part to support the claims of royalty of the leader of the southern kingdom after the northern kingdom was defeated.

The Urim and Thummim are implied, also, whereever in the earlier history of Israel mention is made of asking counsel of the Lord by means of the ephod (Josh. ix. 14; Judges i. 1-2; xx. 18, 26-28; I Sam. x. 22; xiv. 3, 18, 36 et seq.; xxii. 10, 13; xxiii. 2, 4, 6, 9-12; xxviii. 6; xxx. 7 et seq.; II Sam. ii. 1; v. 19, 23 et seq.; xxi. 1. On the nature of the ephod see G. F. Moore, "Judges," 1895, pp. 380-399, where copious references and the literature are given; idem, "Ephod," in Cheyne and Black, "Encyc. Bibl."; and especially T. C. Foote, "The Ephod," in "Jour. Bib. Lit." [1902] xxi. 1-48). In all cases except I Sam. x. 22 and II Sam. v. 23 et seq., the answer is either "Yes" or "No." It has been suggested by Riehm and others that these two passages have undergone editorial changes.

Etymology of the Words.
The etymology suggested by Zimmern and others, supports the explanation given here. The so-called plural ending of the "wo" words expresses the "pluralis intensivus," plurals only in form, but not in meaning. "Urim" may be connected not with "curse, put under the ban," as Schwally and others have held, but with the Babylonian "u'uru," the infinitive of the "pi'el" of "a'aru," from which are derived also the nouns "urtu" = "command, order, decision" (usually of the gods) and "tertu" (originally with the same meaning). These words occur frequently in Assyro-Babylonian literature in sentences analogous in form to those in which "Urim and Thummim" are used in the Old Testament. The plural("fires") has no doubt had some influence in shaping the analogous form "urtu." There is evidence that the Assyrian "tamu," pi'el "tummu," verbal forms also belonging to the oracular language. "Urim and Thummim" correspond, then, to the Babylonian "urtu" and "tamitu," the latter a synonym of "piristu" = "oracle, oracular decision [of the gods]." That the original meaning of the two words and their significance were known even at the time when the Old Testament records, in which they are mentioned, were written is exceedingly doubtful; that they were not known either to the Greek translators or to the early Masorites is practically certain.


Subject: Watch Angels in America--the "prophet" is given a pair along with his book. n/t


Subject: Re: You had me at "set of stones" set in eye glass frames...
Date: Jul 15 12:52
Author: SpongeBob SquareGarments

go to here for a pic of joe with the specs:


Recovery from Mormonism - The Mormon Church

Listing of additional short Topics  |  Main Page