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Church Releases Seer Stone Photo + Handwritten Manuscript

“A new volume of The Joseph Smith Papers Project featuring the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon was released Tuesday by the Church Historian’s Press, an imprint of the History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” reads a Mormon Newsroom statement.  “Revelations and Translations, Volume 3: Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon is the 11th published volume of the project in the Church’s ongoing effort to make every document produced by Church founder Joseph Smith or by his scribes available to the public.”

In a press conference held at the Church History Library in Salt Lake, Church Historian and Member of the Quorum of the Seventy Steven R. Snow announced the new project, stating, “We’re thrilled that this will benefit both scholars and members.” Elder Snow said that in compiling the lengthy volumes (over 1,000 pages of text), “we were committed to a comprehensive treatment of the facts.”

The project was produced in collaboration with the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), who acquired the manuscript in 1923. The manuscript was primarily written by Oliver Cowdery.

Robin Linkhart, one of the Community of Christ’s Presidents of the Seventy, stated that the joint project “represents decades of research” and “is a significant addition to the Joseph Smith Papers.” She concluded that despite differences between the faiths, “we endeavor to create an atmosphere of respectful dialogue.”

As internet usage becomes more pervasive in society, many Church members have come across information regarding Church history that they find troubling. Though scholarly in nature, the Joseph Smith Papers project seeks to educate more than just academics on these issues. 

“I’ve often said that our biggest challenge with Church history is simply that our members don’t study enough of it,” said Assistant Church Historian Richard E. Turley Jr. “The Joseph Smith Papers are part of a continuing effort we have to make sources available to our members so that they can see original items in the easiest possible way.”

For instance, the volume contains stunning, never-before-seen photographs of a seer stone that Joseph Smith used in the translation of the Book of Mormon. Due to the prominence of the Urim and Thummim in the narrative of Church history, Turley conceded that many members might be surprised to learn that Joseph often used a seer stone during the translation process. But ready explanations for such revelations can be found, said Turley, if approached with a historical eye.

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The above photo of Joseph's seer stone was released to the public in the new volume, as well as an article found on LDS.org

“I think the value of the papers is that they allow the reader to go directly to the sources,” he said. “Of necessity historians interpret, but [the Joseph Smith Papers project] allows an interested person to go directly into the sources and make their own interpretation without having to be filtered.”

For those concerned with the scholarly nature of the volume, Turley says that it contains “both the original manuscripts and easy-to-read transcripts so that you can . . . read it easily through the transcripts, and then if you want to compare it to the manuscript, you can do that as well.”

The Mormon Newsroom statement concludes, “The entire project has been endorsed by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a division of the National Archives. The Joseph Smith Papers volumes undergo extensive peer reviews, from both Church and outside scholars.

The print edition of the Joseph Smith Papers is expected to span more than 20 volumes when complete. It is divided into six series: Journals, Revelations and Translations, Histories, Documents, Administrative Records, and Legal and Business Records. The first volume of the project was published in 2008. For more information, visit josephsmithpapers.org.”

Photo from Mormon Newsroom. 

See more photos and learn how the Church came to have the stone, click here.


5 Little-Known Facts About the Publication of the Book of MormonLearn more about the discovery, translation, and publication of the Book of Mormon in the newest volume of  The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations, Volume 3, Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon Part 1 and Part 2Available on deseretbook.com today, August 4.

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