|Jesus in Gethsemane|
All this leads to the next point made by Jeremy Runnells in Letter to a CES Director. Runnells states:
Unlike the story I've been taught in Sunday School, Priesthood, General Conferences, Seminary, EFY, Ensigns, Church history tour, Missionary Training Center, and BYU...Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat for translating the Book of Mormon.In other words, he used the same "Ouija Board" that he used in his days treasure hunting where he would put in a rock – or a peep stone – in his hat and put his face in the hat to tell his customers the location of buried treasure. He used the exact same method while the gold plates were covered or put in another room or buried in the woods during translating the Book of Mormon. These facts are not only confirmed in Rough Stone Rolling (p. 71-72), by FairMormon here and here, by Neal A. Maxwell Institute (FARMS), but also in an obscure 1992 talk given by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Update: The Church’s December 2013 essay admits this.
Why is the Church not being honest and transparent to its members about how Joseph Smith really translated the Book of Mormon? How am I supposed to be okay with this deception? (Letter to a CES Director pg. 20-21) (Runnells also shows several pictures the Church portrays of how the Prophet translated the Book of Mormon)First, Runnells is committing the logical fallacy of a hasty generalization, assuming that his experience in the Church is equivalent to all members' experience. What is more likely is that Runnells, like many but not all young adult members, was not interested in these historical matters until his adulthood, and then re-interpreted his experience as having been deceived. I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009 (about 4 years before the CES Letter was written), and I knew prior to baptism that the Prophet Joseph Smith had used his seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon.
Further, the Journal of Discourses, as well as the testimony of David Whitmer and others, show that the early Saints were also aware of the Prophets use of the stone. This is not new information, it is readily available. It may be true that Runnells' instructors and family did not tell him about these matters, but it is false to state that the Church is hiding it when you can learn about these matters in books that are available at the Church's bookstore, Deseret Book. So, Runnells statement that the Church and its leaders are deceiving people is patently false.
As far as Runnells' calling seer stones "Ouija Boards", he is guilty of the logical fallacy of equivocation, which is using two different terms and assuming that they have the same meaning. Ouija Boards are not translation devices, rather they are boards with numbers and letters printed on them that can supposedly receive messages from the devil or deceased spirits. No one has ever reported that they used such a device to translate a book.
|Picture of an Ouija Board|
Perhaps part of the problem is not so much with the process itself, but the word "translate". When we hear that word in our every day vernacular, we think of a person trained in two or more languages taking a text in one language and transmitting it into another. This was not so with the Prophet. According to Emma, he could hardly dictate a coherent letter, so to think he could translate a dead language is simply preposterous. He needed assistance, great assistance in fact, to accomplish the task the Lord had given him. So, taking a process that was familiar to him, the Lord allowed him to use a stone that he had used for other purposes in order to translate the record.
Further reading: Book of Mormon Translation, Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses by Richard L. Anderson, Joseph Smith's Seer Stones by Michael Hubbard MacKay & Nicholas J. Frederick