Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Seer Stones Looking "Small Unto the Understanding of Men"

I was reading the book of Mormon today—yes, I know, I am so righteous—and came across a passage that caught my attention. The Brother of Jared asks God to touch some stones, that they may be used to light the barges he built; two of which were later used as seer stones. The "Brother of Jared" then makes a parapraxis (a Freudian slip of sorts), breaking character, revealing the personal insecurities of Joseph Smith regarding his own use of seer stones.
Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth greater power, which looks small unto the understanding of men. (Ether 3:5)

Surely this wouldn't be the voice of the Brother of Jared. Jared's praise to God in this way would have been a blatant back-handed complement, and therefore out of character. On the other hand, the person of Joseph Smith, who was mocked and even legally prosecuted for the use of seer stones... saying this would have been perfectly understandable and within character.

I have the bad habit of reinventing the wheel, so forgive me if someone else has made this observation before. Frankly, I’d be surprised if nobody has, since it seems so obvious to me now. Your thoughts?


Edit to add: Similar language was expressed about the Liahona—another divining instrument likely inspired by Joseph Smith's treasure seeking activities. After describing its workings, Nephi remarks, "And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things." (1 Nephi 16:29) Coincidence?


Photo from http://mrm.org/mormons-on-pbs

Monday, August 2, 2010


Here is an interesting exchange that I did not include in my book. From the Viking Scroll (BYU Idaho's student newspaper), 16 May 1963, p. 2.


A Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

Your issue that came out the week before Easter shocked us. We want to know what right you had to put the symbol of the cross in the masthead of our newspaper. Don’t you know that we don’t worship the cross? Do you think we are Catholics? Why didn’t you use an Easter lily or even Easter rabbits? A group of about 25 of us have discussed this and we are really put out by it.

Incensed Students


Editor’s Note: Since Dr. Jacob, our adviser, was the one who chose the symbol for the masthead, we turned this letter over to him for his answer.)
Dear Incensed:

Thank you for your letter. You are right; we do not worship the cross, but we do not worship the Easter lily or the Easter bunny either. And just because we used the symbol of the cross and the scriptures in the masthead does not mean that we worship them.

Also, just because the Catholics use the cross for a symbol and probably overdo it, this does not mean that we, who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, cannot use on occasion that symbol that has had so much significance for Christians throughout the ages. Do you know that a good number of years before there was ever a Roman Catholic church, the cross had meaning for the early Christians? Even the custom of crossing our fingers may date back to the time when members of the Early-day Church made the sign of the cross behind their backs when they were facing death before the Romans.

Speaking of the Lord Jesus, Paul said this: “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be the things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Col. 1:19, 20.) To the Corinthians he wrote, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but to us which are saved it is the power of God.” (I Cor. 1:18). In his epistle to the Philippians he warned of this kind of people: “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction....”

So, Incensed, let us not be enemies of the cross, when the very “God of Israel and the God of the whole earth” was “slain for the sins of the world.” This is why we chose to use the symbol of the cross and the scriptures in the masthead of your paper. I hope this explanation will help your incense to burn itself out with a deeper realization of what Easter really means.

C.H. Jacob
Adviser, Viking Scroll


Logo above comes from the "Mormons Who Glory in the Cross of Christ" facebook community.