Episode 9

Joseph's Seer Stones – Michael Hubbard MacKay


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Russell Stevenson interviews Dr. Michael Mackay about the use of seer stones in the Book of Mormon translation process.

Some may not realize that Joseph continued to use seer stones after the Book of Mormon was translated. He used them while translating the Bible, when dictating revelations, and even when giving patriarchal blessings.

After his death, Joseph’s stones were passed down to succeeding presidents of the church and looked upon as sacred relics.

Dr. Mackay discusses how the seer stones were not simply a tool to give Joseph confidence to translate; they represent something much more significant.


LDS Perspectives Podcast

Episode 9: Joseph’s Seer Stones with Michael MacKay

Russell Stevenson:     This is Russell Stevenson with LDS Perspectives. We have Dr. Mike McKay here in his office to discuss seer stones in the Latter-day Saint tradition. Good to have you here, Dr. McKay.

Michael MacKay:      It’s good to be here, thanks for having me.

Russell Stevenson:     Absolutely. So, just a little bit of back story here. I was in Africa not long ago, and within many indigenous African theologies, I would say it’s more deeply rooted in materiality, right. They tend to put a lot of emphasis on things, on items, on soil, on things that you can touch with your hands. I think it’s interesting that within the Latter-day Saint tradition, you also have an element of this in Joseph Smith’s seer stones.

Michael MacKay:      Yeah, I think one of the things that we really resonate with is those sensorial experiences that we have. We often describe these spiritual experiences where we go to church, and we feel these things. We have these emotions, and largely, that too is what you would call a materialist approach to religion, where in reality, the passing of chemicals across the synapses is a physical response to some sort of religious occurrence. So, understanding something like seer stones, where you have a tangible object and a response to that tangible object could also be compared to our temple experiences where, in ritual form, we prepare ourselves physiologically and in our dress, and we go there, and we have these very powerful experiences, and we express ourselves through actions and a specific kind of religious material culture.

Drawing that back into seer stones, once again, we have this very brilliant, very interesting way of dealing with material culture, perhaps not different than something like the Dome of the Rock, a rock that’s deeply religious that has profound influence on several different religious traditions. Fortunately, we have in Mormonism this concept of seer stones that’s emerged and become central to the production of much of the foundational religious scripture that’s come forth.

Russell Stevenson:     Now, you just said that this notion of seer stones has emerged, which implies that we haven’t always acknowledged this to be part of our narrative. Why has that changed?

Michael MacKay:      I wonder if it’s pockets of knowledge. In part of the introduction to this book, we try to approach this idea, asking have we always known about the seer stones, and it’s very rich in the literature? If you go through from Joseph Smith’s time all the way until today, it’s found in even some of the most conservative literature. So, it’s been there, there’s just been a tendency to avoid it in some of the more pedagogical situations where we’re trying to emphasize the spiritual aspects of church. I think it’s possible, the relationship between science and religion. The concept of secularism in our society has distanced us from talking about it more discreetly, but it’s always been there. There have been pockets.

B.H. Roberts was obsessed with the topic. He saw the seer stones, and he wrote about them in public venues. You have very conservative individuals in the ‘70s and the ‘80s who are writing about seer stones. You also have Ensign articles in 1998, for example. You have publications now through the Joseph Smith Papers. It’s in the literature, and to some extent, it’s about us speaking about it more publicly, and I think the emergence of this, which I mentioned, came through the Joseph Smith Papers project, and serious reflection on stuff that’s already been written. To make a pun, it is an old hat.

Russell Stevenson:     Waka, waka.

Michael MacKay:      It’s quite literally been something that people have been dealing with for a long time. So, in some ways, the work that I’ve been doing is rehashing some really good work and giving it a new flare, and making it a more public idea in which we begin discuss seer stones as part of sacred rituals, considering them as part of our religious tradition.

Russell Stevenson:     How about you walk us through some of the earliest documentation showing us that Joseph Smith used a seer stone. Who was writing about it, who was observing it, and what kind of meaning did they ascribe to it?

Michael MacKay:      The earliest use of seer stones is related with his burned-over district culture, and so the earliest source that we have is actually a reflection. It’s a copy of a document, but it’s an 1826 document where Joseph Smith actually is charged with a misdemeanor for trying to deceive a guy who’s paying him. In that record you have Joseph Smith describing his seer stone, and actually describing some regret between the mixed cultures that have come along with the seer stones. So, you get this emergence with Joseph Smith participating. One of the points the book makes is all of Joseph’s neighbors supposedly have seer stones also. It’s a condensed, very localized culture, though it spreads across the United States, and money digging in a European tradition also. The esotericism that’s often connected with seer stones is a European and American culture.

Russell Stevenson:     It also seems rather agrarian, right? It tends to be more popular in agrarian societies rather than urban societies.

Michael MacKay:      Yeah, so part of it’s connected with finding water, other parts are connected with finding treasure and buried items, lost items come together. There’s a very religious element to seeing money digging or this magic culture of seer stones or divining rods. To tease them apart from religious actions, from the revivalism that’s happening, or even just the Christian practices within the day would be a mistake. These are things that are overlapping and dependent upon each other, and attaching the concept of the divine nature of America, the land that houses some of these buried treasures, and Manifest Destiny. As soon as the first person reached America they automatically thought Israelites were there, who were the ones that populated this continent.

So, you mix these several cultures together, this very religious revival culture in the burned-over district, with a magic culture connected to esotericism and religion, and what you get is a ripe environment for Joseph Smith to transform that environment into something that becomes very religious to him and eventually develops into Mormonism. But in that case, we use the term transform very particularly. We borrowed from Bushman’s emphasis that Joseph Smith has a green thumb for religion. He takes things like if you had a peach pit and you plant a peach pit in the ground, Joseph Smith would make that peach pit grown into this massive religious oak, something very distinctly different that is transformed and grown that is very distinctly influenced by his culture, but religiously changed and transformed into something very Mormon.

Russell Stevenson:     And it seems that within Western discourse at the time, as well as in the 21st century, we’re not comfortable with considering these kinds of traditions and using seer stones and the like as being religious, right? We tend to call it either a “superstition,” or maybe “folklore,” or sometimes even “magic.” Why do you think that is? You mentioned something about the rise of secularism.

Michael MacKay:      That’s a massive question, and it—

Russell Stevenson:     And unfairly so, yes.

Michael MacKay:      I’m probably not prepared to answer that distinctly. There’s probably a whole book in that very question, and I try to stick more carefully to the material culture of the seer stones in this book particularly. But there is a change. Secularism that comes in and erases the memory of the importance of esotericism, of magic, of these cultures that are ingrained. At the time, even within science, they have these unforeseen forces. Gravity is one of them. Magnetism is one of them. Magnetism is one of them. And hypnotism is one of the first things that doctors used to stop the pain when the surgeon is doing his work. These are unforeseen forces. They’re binding together magnetism and electricity at this point in America in science, and so there’s a great overlap in there.

The distinct division between those practices of magic or things that are incalculable is very much a 20th century action, where science is distinctly … Where the division between those are extremely important. It’s a new definition of what reality is, which doesn’t exist in the 1830s or the 1820s.

Russell Stevenson:     I’m thinking right now of Max Weber’s disenchantment thesis, right? Letting go of the gods. There’s no longer a belief in supernatural forces governing our lives, but rather things are measurable. Things are calculable.

Michael MacKay:      I would argue that this concept of calculating is probably the division between religion and other kinds of knowledge. I particularly don’t want my religion to be calculated. I don’t need a quantification of my religion. This kind of draws it back in. What I want out of it is the mysterious. I want the magisterium; I want to go back to the concept of the miraculous, the concept of something of the sublime; I want to gaze up and find the sublime in God, and the sublime is what drives me rather than the calculable.

In my estimation that’s what religion is, and it’s what you find in Joseph’s interaction with the material culture, with the seer stones in particular. He’s saying you either grasp the miracle in the Book of Mormon, or you don’t get it. Moroni’s promise is just draped with that kind of promise, is you have to have this powerful, internal experience for you to know that this book is true because I gave the plates back. I gave them back, and you can’t examine them. It’s almost a requirement. The death of the plates brings forth the value of the text, and the value of the text can only be known through the glowing words on the stone. This is the stuff of religion. This is the stuff of the miraculous that I think Joseph offers, and that is his religious genius. It isn’t necessarily his brilliance in typing out a well-worded letter or whatever it may be.

Russell Stevenson      I see a really interesting tension here. You’re talking about religion being about the sublime, right, about the transcendent, and yet you’re finding transcendent things in very ordinary things. Things that Joseph Smith literally found while he was digging a well. I mean, that’s something that any of us could do.

Michael MacKay:      Right, so Steve Harper wrote this wonderful article, and it’s about this rationalism that exists then, this rationalism that emerged in this post-Enlightenment period where individuals like the Whitneys or the Campbellites that joined the Mormon religion. These are people who have reached a point in their lives where they’re looking for evidences, and they’re also looking for the New Testament revivalism. They want the miracle to be in their lives, and they actually see those as a rational reason to believe. So, something just like an archeologist digging into the earth like Kuvia or any of these archeologists who are finding lost bones. They’re finding pieces of Diplodocus in dinosaurs, and they’re giving evidence of an ancient world.

These early Christians that are seeing Joseph Smith with a seer stone and buried treasure or artifacts from an ancient world see them as evidence, and they borrow from that evidence to build a belief system. So, you have these rationalists who are also seeking after the miraculous, and the seer stone is an example that binds those two together — the miraculous made material. So, as materialists, they see, and they want this to be the miracle. The process that is described by those who watch him is a fully materialist construct where they’re stopping, and they’re saying the materialism is what makes this immovable. He puts it in a hat. He can’t see other books. The stone in the hat delivers the message and nothing else. This is the ultimate Mormon apology for the miraculousness of the stones. Emma uses it; David Whitmer uses it.

Some people can see it as a trope, but ultimately they saw it, as experiential rationalists, as the greatest example of the miracles that are flowing forth from Joseph Smith, and it begins. Pomeroy Tucker, who’s a local, he says, “The seer stone is the acorn of the Mormon oak,” and as the acorn of the Mormon oak, he plants that acorn and creates the oak is his metaphor. Joseph Smith believes that, too. How is the scripture that’s being produced connected to this beautiful, ritualistic material culture? It is the miracle, and it is the evidence of a rationalist, also.

Russell Stevenson:     One conversation Latter-day Saints have been having in regards to the stones, especially as of late, is exactly how we should see the stone today. Now, within Christian traditions of various kinds, there is a strong sense of relics, right, whether you’re talking about Peter’s finger, or the handkerchief owned by Paul. These things actually have a spirituality infused in them in a very real way. So, should we see the stones as being inherently spiritual, or was it something that maybe resonated with what Joseph Smith expected to be spiritual, then God used whatever tools was in front of him?

Michael MacKay:      Yeah, so this is central to this question. This has been answered by Mark Ashurst-McGee. He’s one of the central figures in this scholarship, probably the central, I would argue. One of the things he really dug at was … Pun intended, I guess, again. What he really dug at was the power in Joseph, or was it in the stone? Regardless of what you … I mean, there’s a debatable question there, and I think Mark’s got the very best answer. But when you think about this, this is central to the question. Let’s just say the words appeared on the stone, or the words appeared in Joseph’s mind, which seemed to his sense to be on the stone, one or the other.

This is a theoretical question that you and I can’t really answer, but it has to be a question because it gives the value of the stone and the value of the seer, which seems to be attempted in both sides. Joseph wants both of them to be relevant, but in our culture this is the one point my book makes that I think is extremely important, that adds to all this other wonderful literature, is this stone in particular. The culture embraces it. Others find their own stones. Those that Joseph gives their stones to preserve them. They value them. So Joseph, when he dies, his stones end up in the hands of Brigham Young, and the next prophet, and the next prophet. One of the stones is dedicated or consecrated on the alters of the temple.

So, regardless of whether it was appearing on the stone, Mormon culture has enlivened it with something sacred and valuable, so by passing it from one to the other, it then identifies the authority that rests in the hands of these brethren who become presidents of the church, and it’s preserved; it’s placed in the presidency’s vault. In the brown stone case it emerges as a valuable demonstration of the validity and the efficaciousness of the Joseph Smith Papers. This is the stuff of religion, once again, and it’s our culture that begins to do this. So, the primary purpose of this book, too, not only the material culture, is to say how does this material culture actually create a theology in Mormonism? Before Joseph Smith dies, regardless of how the stone works or how it enlivens the seer, there is a theology that’s created before Joseph dies.

Russell Stevenson:     So, based on your reading of the subject, how have our manuals treated the existence of the seer stone?

Michael MacKay:      There’s actually more in the manuals than you would think, so you have a couple of Ensign articles from apostles, and so those read like manuals and are used in the manuals, but there’s also a few other pieces that emerge. Most of them are in the ‘70s. From the ‘80s onwards it seems like they’re cut out of the primary manuals, but earlier manuals you have mentioned. You also have them mentioned in Mormon Doctrine, for example. It’s created some great folklore. In Mormon Doctrine, he says, “Oh yeah, the Urim and Thummim is in the First Presidency’s vault,” right, which I remember on my mission thinking that was the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.

The place that they emerge is usually with the translation of the Book of Mormon, and they’re called the Urim and Thummim. They’re also depicted, which is … A lot of my work has been really trying to sculpt a new image of what the translation is, largely through Tony Sweat’s artwork, which I think he’s done wonderful. All of his pieces really add something to this debate, and the reason those are so important is Tony demonstrated, in his research in the back of From Darkness unto Light is that this is the teaching method for the church when it comes to seer stones. A depiction of Joseph either not even using the Urim and Thummim and putting his finger on the plates or when he has them he looks strangely, and they’re connected to the breast plate.

By pictures and paintings the church commissions and never gives them any identification of the historicity of what’s happening, or the historical background of what’s happening, the church’s manuals have left it out of the story outside of the pictures, leaving people to make their own conclusions and avoid directly addressing the concept of seer stones. I don’t think this is going to be the case any longer. I think even the seminary manual, if I remember right, mentions it, and it’s such a broadly understood topic that this isn’t the case anymore.

Russell Stevenson:     There’s a point that you glanced on. You were talking about the seer stone versus the Urim and Thummim, and the degree to which they’re separate things, the degree to which the word Urim and Thummim can be used to describe the seer stone. How about you unpack that for us?

Michael MacKay:      So, some of the things in Joseph Smith’s seer stones is we identify all of the seer stones, so we try to legitimize or de-legitimize, if the historical sources suggest that way, what Joseph Smith is actually using. So, the concept of Urim and Thummim comes as Joseph Smith, it seems … We don’t have direct evidence for this, but it seems that it comes straight through his translation of the Bible. From 1830 to 1833 he’s translating the Bible. He’s well aware of these two stones known as Urim and Thummim that are held within the breast plate of the Ephod of the high priest. This Urim and Thummim is a great example of what he’s doing. Money digging culture is referencing Urim and Thummim all the time.

There’s already an overlap of that, but Joseph seems to use the terminology of stones or peep stones and interpreters through the Book of Mormon, and this terminology becomes biblicized, and it takes on … Just changing the name of something seems very superfluous to what’s going on, but that isn’t. These naming of these stones is extremely relevant. If you take a peep stone that Joseph dug from the ground and you begin calling it Urim and Thummim, it indicates a whole new power structure. It indicates a whole new meaning and a whole new function.

Russell Stevenson:     It’s a transformative act.

Michael MacKay:      It’s absolutely transformative, and that transformative act begins to relabel how people begin to understand it. They begin to see, well, how would the Urim and Thummim function? Is this actually functioning like dice, which the Urim and Thummim functions to some extent, or is argued to function to some extent, and is this a revelatory thing where the Urim and Thummim is held close to the breast plate or the breast of a seer, and the revelation flows to his mind? All of these are relevant for understanding how Joseph Smith is making sense of it, but also those who are not close to the seer stones begin to give relevance and meaning and function to the seer stones. The division between that is deeply important. To be very clear to your listeners, Joseph never owned the Urim and Thummim.

There’s an appendix item. Nick Frederick, who did a wonderful … He gathered all the literature and put together the function of the Old Testament Urim and Thummim and how it related. This is important to know that he didn’t own it, he only owned peep stones and the Book of Mormon interpreters. That being said, we have to then begin to tease out, well, which were which? Mark Ashurst-McGee began this work, and we compiled some of what he did, and tried to add to his wonderful work to sort through when is he talking about the brown stone, when is he talking about his white stone, when is he talking about the interpreters because all three of those are mentioned as Urim and Thummim. This makes the task of sorting through the material culture distinctively almost impossible at times, and it requires some speculation, which makes the topic even more historically interesting.

Russell Stevenson:     Right. Fascinating, engaging, right?

Michael MacKay:      Yeah, and then trying to define what stone is doing what. We actually find some evidence that shows Joseph valued his white stone more than his brown stone. This is something that I think will be a big addition to the field, something that once again … We’re always standing on the shoulders of Mark. He writes the forward to the book, appropriately. That’ll be a nice thing for people to search through and find.

Russell Stevenson:     So, where does the breast plate fit into all this? I mean, you say that you have the white stone, you’ve got the brown stone, you’ve got the interpreters, but we often hear about this breast plate. What’s that about?

Michael MacKay:      Right, so this one is really a mystery. I swear to you I’ve done more research on the breast plate than anything, and I’ve been left dry. So, that’s the best way to start it. Where does its origination come? These stones that he gets with the gold plates, they come with the breast plate, and those are the three things: the plates, the breast plate, and the Nephite interpreters, Mosiah II’s interpreters that are bound together with a metal figure eight. They come together apparently, right, but the problem is the real first account of this comes in 1839 in Joseph Smith’s history, after everything’s become biblicized, and the only account that you get early on is a reflection from Lucy Mack Smith, where she says, “I got to hold the breast plate covered in a handkerchief,” so it’s obviously not that big, right?

Russell Stevenson:    Wasn’t that the interpreters, though? I thought that she was referring to the interpreters.

Michael MacKay:      That too, that too. So, you have this issue where the breast plate only comes out later, so you get these reminiscent descriptions of the breast plate, and the breast plate … William Smith has the best full account of it, and he does it way late in life, and he’s clearly copying Urim and Thummim tropes. He’s trying to connect this very much to a biblicized narrative. So, what’s he’s saying … And largely, William Smith is usually hard to trust anyway. He’s a young teenager when Joseph first gets it. He probably doesn’t know, he probably doesn’t remember, right?

But that being said, the narrative matters, too, because this is what the Mormons believe. They’ve biblicized it. It becomes important to them, but once again, does Joseph use the breast plate? Not according to the scribes who watch him do it. It was apparently too big. They never saw it. Emma didn’t see it; Martin Harris didn’t see it; Oliver Cowdery didn’t see it. So, the use of the breast plate didn’t happen. Did he have it? I don’t know. Joseph Smith’s history says that he does, so the author of Joseph Smith’s history, the one who actually writes the words on the page—

Russell Stevenson:     Mulholland, right?

Michael MacKay:      James Mulholland is his name. Is he actually creating the story, and Joseph approving it? So, if you’re taking Joseph Smith’s history at face value, he had it, but he did not use it. Now, that being said, that’s what we can reconstruct through the historical sources, and he seems not to use it. If you use William Smith, he has it, he uses it. There’s this little lever that comes down, and he connects the spectacle-like, Mosiah II interpreters to that little lever, and it almost looks like he gazes through them, which is an anti-narrative to the rest of the historical sources. So, the breast plate, what a dilemma. I don’t know. The only breast plate mentioned in the Book of Mormon is not connected with interpreters. It’s connected with these breast plates and the discovery of the people of Limhi.

So, here you have this dilemma. I’m not going to sort it out unless we have evidence to sort it out, and that’s kind of the method the book goes at too, is we’re going to look at some of the evidence, and unfortunately, the evidence doesn’t allow us to conclude in all places, and this is one of them.

Russell Stevenson:     One of the history’s mysteries of Mormonism. So, with this in mind, maybe let’s start taking more of a bird’s eye view at the use of the seer stone and other elements of the material culture in which Joseph Smith lived. What are the theological implications?

Michael MacKay:      Okay, so this is one of the things that the book tries to do. As we traced the material culture, the passing of one stone to the next person, Joseph’s value of it, the next prophet’s value of the seer stone, there’s something meaningful just in that. Just passing the seer stone creates that value, and why? This is the ultimate question, and I think the recent scholarship on this, so building from, for example, Glen’s research, building from Mark Ashurst-McGee’s research, building from Bushman’s research, building from that and launching it into a larger narrative with the Joseph Smith papers, and hopefully some of my work has helped. Just recently we have normalized this to some extent. There’ll still be some that don’t know it, but we’ve created an environment of normalization, and now with that, when we can actually value the fact that they used to value it, this is now a time where we ask in what way? In what religious way were these important to them, and why are they important to us?

So, this is what I call theologizing the seer stones. Begin to make meaning of them, and finding what meaning they made of them. Now, the book actually argues that Joseph Smith creates a real theology. I think the question you really have to ask here is why have we not theologized it first? This is the first question. Why haven’t we given it meaning, real religious meaning, until now? The reason for that is … largely one of the predominant descriptions or apologetic answers to this is the didactic or the learning model of the seer stones. You’ve heard this before. Joseph had a seer stone that he got from his culture, and from that culture he eventually learned how to get real revelation. He had to use something from his culture to learn to be —

Russell Stevenson:     As a kind of crutch, as Orson Pratt described.

Michael MacKay:      Yeah. Now, Mark Ashurst-McGee’s dissertation actually follows some of this didactic model, but he does it in a very sophisticated way that isn’t apologetic. He actually demonstrates that in seer culture there’s a development from a rod to a dark stone up to a white stone, and eventually ending with a crystal. This is the material culture of advancement that he’s done very well with. Now, what goes beyond this is saying Joseph couldn’t function, and devaluing previous seer stones to say pure inspirational revelation is more valuable than seeing words on a stone. He’s a better prophet because of this. The implications of this is to say, if the didactic model is true, is to say the most valuable piece of scripture in Mormonism, the Book of Mormon, was in fact created in a lesser form of revelation with the seer stones.

I think to most people that strikes you as blasphemy, yet many have perpetuated this to show … Even in the Ensign article that they wrote recently that showed the seer stone. They made this statement, for example, quoting Pratt to say, well, when Joseph did the Bible translation, he told Pratt, “I don’t need a seer stone.” But that neglects the valuable source where an individual talked to Joseph and he said Joseph used the seer stone in the beginning of the Bible translation. He saw, in a panoramic or all-seeing vision, everything that happened in the Bible. By doing so, he saw that upfront and then read through every verse of the Bible and made changes according to what he saw, right? So, it totally ignores this to maintain a didactic model of the seer stones. What this also does is allows us to religiously devalue the use and possession of seer stones, which is not reflected in the passing of seer stones from Joseph to the current presidency of the church.

Russell Stevenson:     The fact that Joseph Smith passed his on to somebody else, and they passed it on to somebody else, it tells us that they’re valuable, right? They mean something, and we shouldn’t just discard them as relics of a backwards past.

Michael MacKay:      Right, right. So, in particular, Brant Gardner’s work, which has added numerous additions to this debate. In particular he makes a brilliant argument that asks the question are the inscriptions on the plates actually what comes out on the paper, which has pushed us forward in our advancements, much further. But on the other side he maintains an idea that the didactic model is right. So by doing so, we’ve kind of halted ourselves in valuing them ourselves. The other argument that the didactic model supporters have to include is that Joseph didn’t use his seer stones after the Book of Mormon. I’ve made one example where we have evidence that he has — the Bible translation. In addition to that you have Parley P. Pratt claiming that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham with the seer stones.

There’s also an 1835 local newspaper that says Joseph is translating the Book of Abraham from papyri using his seer stone. In addition to that, 1836 … I mean, this is a reduced use of seer stones, right, but in addition to that, 1836, he gives Newel K. Whitney his patriarchal blessing with his white seer stone. So, you get to his more expanded cosmological period in Nauvoo, and you see him connecting seer stones with a very distinct concept of what the cosmology of God is. He’s got several speeches. His mysteries of godliness relating to the temple, and also his discussion with Orson Hyde, which later becomes D&C 130. In D&C 130 it says every person who will go to the celestial kingdom will receive a white stone with a new name on it.

Now, this concept of a new name is past. He says you will be able to see with your seer stone all of the past worlds that have been created, and it’s part of your understanding, part of the godliness that is created there, to know past, present, and future. That is the state of godliness in the celestial kingdom. D&C 130 says it is essential that you have a seer stone in exaltation. So, once again, to say that we don’t value the seer stone, this is the opposite of the didactic model.

Russell Stevenson:     That’s to deny the very nature of revelations received and canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Michael MacKay:      And Joseph Smith’s perpetuation of godliness. He’s not arguing that God is all powerful, he’s arguing God is all knowledgeable, which makes him all powerful. That’s a different situation. He’s saying part of this knowledge comes through, like he told Joseph Knight Sr. when he first gets those Mosiah II stones, he says, “I can see anything.” In 1843 he says, “I can see anything, and so will you when you possess a stone with your new name on it, as D&C 130 says, and you will obtain exaltation, and be in the celestial kingdom.”

So, this is just an introduction to the theology. This is going to expand far beyond this. I know Sam Brown is exploring much of this element, and his new book on translation will perpetuate this in this direction, which will give us, once again, an even further expansion of the value of the theology connected back to the material culture of seer stones. You’re looking at this volcano about to explode, and I think it’s our new ability to look at the material culture of seer stones more religiously, and I think probably once Sam comes out with his book, it’ll be the book of all books where you are like, okay, why do I need to know the development? I’m looking at the fully developed side. So, that’s the direction we’re headed in.

This book is intended to be part of a spring board to insinuate that if we are to understand seer stones and the material culture of Mormonism, we are going to have to give answers that are theological. We’re going to have to take it more serious than just describing what’s in the historical documents. We are going to have to theologize and figure out what this really means, rather than what someone was describing it to me.

Russell Stevenson:     Your books, From Darkness unto Light, and Joseph Smith’s Seer Stones have taken us leaps and bounds towards understanding those questions. Thanks so much for joining us, Dr. MacKay.

Michael MacKay:      Thank you.

Disclaimer:                 LDS Perspectives Podcast is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The opinions expressed on this episode represent the views of the guests and the podcaster alone, and LDS Perspectives Podcast and its parent organization may or may not agree with them. While the ideas presented may vary from traditional understandings or teachings, they in no way reflect criticism of LDS church leaders, policies, or practices.



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