Defending the Indefensible

In one of the most asinine articles I’ve ever read, Daniel Petersen of The Deseret News, the LDS-owned, for profit, pseudo-news source  in Salt Lake City, attempts one of the lamest, most intellectually devoid defenses of Joseph Smith’s seer-stone & hat method of “translating” The Book of Mormon:

Consider a smartphone or e-reader, for instance. Their screens are very difficult to read out in the sunlight and need to be shaded. Or consider your personal computer. You probably don’t place it directly in front of a window where bright light will be streaming into your face. You need contrasting darkness so that you can see the screen without strain, and especially so if you’ll be working on it for lengthy periods. Otherwise, your eyes will tire and your head will ache.

Technology companies often solve this problem by making the display brighter, but apparently having Joe stick his head in The Hat was a more convenient “darkroom” for The LORD.

Mr. Petersen does not address the obvious impediments of dictating with one’s face in a hat; the muffling of Joseph Smith’s voice and the toll it must have taken to yell through the fabric of the hat. <end sarcasm – maybe>

Mr. Petersen goes on, in stunning fashion, to admit that the golden plates upon which The Book of Mormon was written, weren’t even necessary to the translation process:

According to those familiar with the process, he [Joseph Smith] dictated the Book of Mormon from words that somehow appeared in a “seer stone” or (much the same thing) in the Urim and Thummim. He rarely if ever actually had the plates with him; he couldn’t read what was on them except through revelation anyway, and he could receive revelation (via the “interpreters”) just as easily without the plates as with them.

Once you believe that everything is possible, anything is possible.  If the plates weren’t necessary, why was the stone?  Why not just the hat?  While we’re asking that question, why not just close his eyes and read the words off the inside of his eyelids?

His scribes needed light in order to work, but it’s quite understandable that Joseph sought to reduce the fatigue of his eyes by using a hat to exclude the ambient light.

The implications of this, however, are intriguing. A manuscript hidden in the bottom of a hat would be difficult if not impossible to read.

Petersen seems to believe that the only likely method of committing a fraud on the scale of The Book of Mormon is for Joe to be working alone and fooling his scribes.  Of course, if his “scribes” were doing more than writing, it could make such a deception much less complicated.  Oliver Cowdery, one of Smith’s scribes, just happened to be a distant cousin of Smith’s mother, and also happened to attend the same church of the pastor who authored ‘View of the Hebrews’, which strongly suggested that Native Americans were of Jewish descent.  Sound familiar?  If they wrote the book together, they wouldn’t have needed the hat, except to keep up appearances for visiting financiers.

It appears, thus, that Joseph was dictating from an unfamiliar text. It also seems likely that what he was reading provided its own independent light source, such that he could read it even with ordinary light excluded, in what one historian famously called “a world lit only by fire.”

For anyone who has ready anything but the official LDS version of history, the only thing that seems ‘likely’ in this story is that Joseph Smith was a talented “Glass Looker” in a gullible and trusting society.