The seer stone was never one of those things where when I first heard about it I went, “Ah hah, the church isn’t what it claims to be because Smith put a rock in a hat.” Because I was aware that the act by itself is only a problem if you’re going to humbly ask, “how can you see words appear on or through a stone by staring at it, i.e. what are the mechanics behind such a claim?” I know that many people are not concerned with such questions. So if you are not the type of Mormon to ask how a claim of scrying via a peep stone can occur in the natural world, and are more than ready to throw out the LDS words “God,” “miraculous,” “spirit,” “Ghost,” etc., as if these words explain anything, then it won’t be an issue to you.
If you are like me and are skeptical of the occult, divination, and magic then it is a problem; for it seems more likely that the rock in the hat act is a slight of hand trick performed by Smith to cover up a natural explanation for the production of the Book of Mormon (from now on BoM).
The apologist is not left off the hook though by saying we former Mormons have a bias against the supernatural when it pertains to Mormonism. Because the real question I think is, did the seer stone aid Smith in locating hidden treasure before he claimed to unearth the gold plates? Remember, he used the same stone for both his money digging or treasure seeking adventures as he did for dictating the BoM to his scribes. Do you believe that Smith’s peep stone worked sort of like a crystal ball to guide him where to locate hidden treasure in the earth, yes or no? No dodging the question, please. If you do believe the peep stone had magical, excuse me, supernatural powers then where did these powers of the stone come from? If you say “God did it,” then how do you explain the stone being used by Smith to try and find treasure? And do you believe every other occult peep stone in Smith’s day had the same powers, or just Smith’s stone? If the LDS church does possess this same stone today why doesn’t the church use it and show it to the public? If you believe in the power of peep stones why aren’t people today who have them able to prove they really work?
If you are skeptical that the peep stone had supernatural powers and Smith was faking his ability to locate buried treasure, or believed he had such powers but was deluded, why was it used to dictate today’s published BoM if it was just a plain old rock with no magical powers?
The reason the rock in the hat act is not trivial to me is that it is one piece of evidence that adds up to an accumulation of evidence showing Smith to probably be, in the words of Dan Vogel, a pious fraud. The following facts in italics -- along with my assessment of what is most likely the truth -- show a steady progression of deception and the man-made origins of the BoM through using the seer stone as a slight of hand trick; i.e. Smith tried to make the production of the BoM appear legit by using a magic peep stone that was believed to work in his day which was a more superstitious time:
• Fact 1: Smith used the rock in a hat act while money digging. He probably used the rock to trick people into believing he knew where buried treasure was found by looking into his stone as if it were a kind of crystal ball. The fact that he was unsuccessful at it seems to show he was faking it as were other seers in his day. This is what we would expect if Smith was a fraud, i.e. we would expect to see a history of deception.
• Fact 2: Smith was arrested and accused of deception because of Fact 1 above. Again, this is what we would expect if Smith was a fraud; that is a history of deception and an arrest record. See the short video clip below:
• Fact 3: Based on witness testimony Smith used the same stone he used in money digging to dictate the contents of the BoM to his scribes. This is what we would expect if Smith was trying to pull one over on people; that is he’d try to bolster the claims of his BoM by using his magic seer stone because he would have known at the time that many people believed they had magical powers.
• Fact 4: Based on witness testimony, the gold plates were probably never used, as they were either covered or hidden in the woods during the formation of today’s BoM. Yet again, this is what we would expect if Smith, and possibly others, were orchestrating a hoax. For if Smith was a fraud we’d expect him to rely on a rock he found in a well and had used for money digging, and not use the plates at all during the formation of today’s published BoM. If Smith wasn’t a fraud, it becomes difficult to explain why the gold plates were preserved and unearthed in the first place if Smith was able to dictate the contents of the BoM without them!
• Fact 5: If Smith (and possibly others) produced the BoM we would expect to hear of hidden treasure, magic rocks etc., in the BoM itself; and that is what we find (see the second half of my blog post Urim & Thummim or Magic Stone? How Smith claimed to produce the Book of Mormon.
• Fact 6: Smith reprises his money digging role after he claimed to give up money digging and after the production of the BoM, see D&C 111: 2-4, 8, 11. The author of lds-mormon.com asks, “Why would a prophet need to send members to seek for treasure seen in a vision? See D&C 111. Why wasn't any found when the revelation states they would?” (see here). This is what we would expect if Smith was faking his abilities with the stone and couldn’t resist the temptation to once again relive his money digging past.
• Fact 7: One of Smith’s alleged revelations states that God himself resides on a giant seer stone in D&C 130: 1- 10. This is what we would expect as well, for if Smith was enamored by the occult and peep stones why not bestow upon God himself a giant seer stone the deity would reside upon.
I submit that one of these facts taken alone, and by itself, may appear trivial. But when one examines the accumulation of evidence a picture starts to emerge and the pieces (facts 1 – 7 mentioned above), begin to form the completion of a picture on the box of a puzzle; the picture being the man-made origin of Mormonism. At this point, as a fair and impartial juror in the court of public opinion and common sense, I believe one is left with at the very least the honest admission that it looks suspicious. Then, when one adds hundreds of other facts – like there is no objective scientific evidence that the people or places in the BoM even existed, and despite the claims about the First Vision made by the LDS Church Smith denied that the Father deity has a body of tabernacle and sanctioned the doctrine that the Holy Ghost was not a personage in 1835, and many more facts that I discuss in my blog and articles to the right – a very clear picture begins to emerge showing Smith to be a well meaning pretender. As for me, the evidence adds up showing that it is much more probable that Smith perpetuated a hoax with perhaps righteous, as well as monetary, intentions.
Finally, even if the LDS believer chooses to ignore all the historical evidence that Joseph Smith was a person with a shady past, why would God choose a person to be his front man who pretends to use a magic rock to dig up treasure in the ground? Especially, if Smith would allegedly be asked to dig up gold plates in the ground? Isn't the issue of credibility an important one? If Mohammed had claimed to pull the Koran out of a hat after being a stage magician in his youth, would that lend credibility to Islam? At least for me personally, if that were true of Mohammed it would not be trivial at all. Fortunately for Islam, Mohammed did not claim to pull the Koran out of a hat after being a stage magician in his youth. But if that were true, would any Mormon reading this be suspicious of the Koran as a result of that information? I think so.