140 years ago today - Oct 13, 1879

[J. L. Traughber]
"I personally heard him [David Whitmer] state, in January, 1877 [1876], in his own house in Richmond, Ray county, Mo., in most positive language, that he did truly see, in broad day-light, a bright and most beautiful being, an `angel from heaven,' who did hold in his hands the golden plates, which he turned over leaf by leaf, explaining the contents here and there." I have heard the same from the mouth of Father Whitmer, more than once; and every time I ever heard him tell the particulars of that glorious scene, he always told it just the same; and as far as I have ever heard, from reliable witnesses, he has always told the same story--"straight as a nail." Had Elder Smith stopped at the end of the above quoted sentence, I would have had no ground for bringing his name into this article; but he did not. He further adds: "He also described the size and general appearance of the plates, and he further said that he saw Joseph translate, by the aid of Urim and Thummim, time and again, and he then produced a large pile of foolscap paper closely written in a very fair hand, which he declared was the manuscript written mainly by Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, as the translation was being read by the aid of the Urim and Thummim of the characters on the plates by Joseph Smith, which work of translation and transcription he frequently saw." I, too, have seen the "manuscripts" and examined them. I, too, have heard Father Whitmer say that he was present many times while Joseph was translating; but I never heard him say that the translation was made by aid of Urim and Thummim; but in every case, and his testimony is always the same, he declared that Joseph first offered prayer, then took a dark colored, opaque stone, called a "seer-stone," and placed it in the crown of his hat, then put his face into the hat, and read the translation as it appeared before him. This was the daily method of procedure, as I have often heard Father Whitmer declare; and, as it is generally agreed to by parties who know the facts, that a considerable portion of the work of translation was performed in a room of his father's house, where he then resided, there can be no doubt but what Father David Whitmer is a competent witness of the manner of translating. I am aware of the fact that the "Urim and Thummim" story has long been foisted upon the world as the true account of the origin of the Book of Mormon; but the times demand, and, the interest of truth demands, that the truth should be told. We need not be afraid of truth; and I greatly doubt if anybody will be ultimately benefitted by the perpetuation of a falsehood, which was invented for the purpose of gaining prestige, in the minds of the people, for ambitious leaders. The proofs are clear and positive that the story of Urim and Thummim Translation does not date back, for its origin, further than 1833, or, between that date and 1835; for it is not found in any printed document of the Church of Christ up to the latter part of the year 1833, or the year 1834. The "Book of Commandments" to the Church of Christ, published in Independence, Mo., in 1833, does not contain any allusion to Urim and Thummim; though the term was inserted in some of the revelations in their reprint in the "Book of Doctrine and Covenants" in 1835. Who originated the Urim and Thummim story, I do not know; but this I do know, that it is not found in the first printed book of revelations to the Church of Christ, and there is other testimony to show that it is not true. It is proper to notice what it is claimed the Urim and Thummim was. P[arley]. P. and O[rson]. Pratt both say it was an instrument composed of two clear or transparent stones set in the two rims of a bow. It is also confounded with the "Interpreters," which were shaped something like a pair of ordinary spectacles, though larger. .... The mode of procedure consisted in Joseph's placing the Seer Stone in the crown of a hat, then putting his face into the hat, so as to entirely cover his face, resting his elbows upon his knees, and then dictating, word after word, while the scribe--Emma, John Whitmer, O. Cowdery, or some other, wrote it down." ...

J. L. TRAUGHBER, JR., MANDEVILLE, Mo., Oct. 13, 1879.

[J. L. Traughber to Editor, 13 October 1879, Saints' Herald 26 (15 November 1879): 341., as cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents: J. L. Traughber To Saints' Herald]

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